Urban rail plans include bridge and tunnel options for getting south

AUSTIN (KXAN) — By the end of June, Austin City Council members could make a decision on whether to move ahead with an urban rail system in Austin.

Right now, the city is determining the best way to design the rail line.

One issue facing leaders is whether the rail would travel over Lady Bird Lake, or under.

A light rail bridge would be built from Trinity Street across the lake. It would be the least expensive of the options, and set the price of the urban rail at $175 million.

If the city decided to go underground, things get more pricey. It would cost an estimated $240 million to expand an urban rail plan that would include a short tunnel that would only go under the lake.

Another plan, which would be the most expensive option, would include building an underground tunnel all the way through to 15th Street. It would make the urban rail cost $475 million. But it could lower travel time and increase ridership.

The lead on the project says they have to weigh all the positives and negatives and come up with the most viable option.

“With the idea of a bridge you have tremendous opportunity for a visual element to be added to the skyline,” said Kyle Keahey, vice president with the City of Austin and Capital Metro’s urban rail project. “Where as if its under the lake it’s not adding any visual interest, but it is costing a whole lot of money.”

The project will be finalized in May and then presented to council in June.

Funding is expected to come from local and federal funds. The city council could decide to put it on a local bond referendum this November.

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